To show his girl how brave he is Fatty challenges the champion to a fight. Charlie referees, trying to avoid contact with the two monsters.To show his girl how brave he is Fatty challenges the champion to a fight. Charlie referees, trying to avoid contact with the two monsters.To show his girl how brave he is Fatty challenges the champion to a fight. Charlie referees, trying to avoid contact with the two monsters.
The plot gets under way as we find two tattered hobos, looking for food. One of the tramps decides to impersonate the boxer Cyclone Flynn, who is scheduled to fight a bout that afternoon. Since the promoter hasn't met Flynn, he believes the tramp's false claim and gives him an advance on the proceeds. Meanwhile, Roscoe (called "Pug" here) defends his girlfriend from the unwanted attentions of a masher so successfully that he's persuaded to turn pro and take on Cyclone Flynn himself. After various complications Pug faces the real Flynn in the ring. The bout turns into a wild brawl and the police are summoned as Pug, now armed with two pistols, attempts to kill Flynn. Flynn ultimately escapes with his life across the rooftops and through an elegant party. Cops pursue Pug to a pier, and assorted personnel sail through the air into the ocean.
Decades after this film was made Roscoe Arbuckle retains his boyish charm as a screen comic. He gets quite a workout in this short. Gags as such are few, but there's a nice moment when Roscoe prepares to remove his trousers, becomes aware of the "viewers," and directs the camera's gaze upward, only undressing when he is safely out of camera range! (He would repeat this gag in his comedy Coney Island, three years later.) Minta Durfee, who was married to Arbuckle when this film was made, is a pleasant leading lady and looks fetching in the male drag she wears in the latter portion of the film, but, in my opinion, lacks the warmth Mabel Normand brought to similar roles. The rest of the supporting cast represents something of a Keystone Who's Who of 1914: Hank Mann as the tramp, Edgar Kennedy -- with hair -- as Cyclone Flynn, Al St. John as the masher, and Mack Swain (so memorable as the delusional prospector in Chaplin's The Gold Rush) as the gambler, mugging furiously as he watches the big fight. If you look quickly you can spot producer Mack Sennett in a brief bit, in the street in front of the arena. And of course, you can't miss Charlie Chaplin as the referee.
As Chaplin's popularity eclipsed Arbuckle's this film was re-released and advertised as a Chaplin vehicle, which is misleading, for Charlie is present for only a few minutes during the chaotic boxing match. Still, the sequence is the comic high point, as Arbuckle, Chaplin, Mack Swain, and Edgar Kennedy, all on screen simultaneously in a medium long shot, compete for the viewer's attention. But it's no contest: Chaplin's frantic attempts to avoid the boxers' punches draws our attention and steals the scene. Just to make sure our attention doesn't wander, Charlie vigorously mimes wooziness, falls, drags himself across the ring by the ropes, and pauses to count the stars he sees, whirling around his head. Arbuckle has to fire pistols to recapture the focus. If we view this sequence as a Battle of the Keystone Comics, it's plain that, a mere six months after his screen debut, and still only 25 years-old, Chaplin was now the undisputed Champion of screen comedians.
- Mar 2, 2002